British berry growers Hall Hunter Partnership have teamed up with a UK robotics group to help develop an automated raspberry picker.
Fieldwork Robotics, a spinout from the Univeristy of Plymouth, created by lecturer Dr Martin Stoelen, is part of a new wave of British agri-tech aiming to develop robots fully capable of picking a range of fruit and veg.
Their deal with with Hall Hunter Partnership was brokered by the University’s commercialisation partner Frontier IP, and will enable them to prototype and field test a raspberry harvesting robot system.
The cross industry collaberation means the robot can be trialled in a range of environments such as fields or polytunnels under different climatic and light conditions.
Dr Stoelen already has his hands full working on a tomato harvesting project in China, as well as developing a cauliflower picking robot arm after receiving funding from Agri-Tech Cornwall in February.
Commenting on the latest partnership, Stoelen said: “The collaboration agreement we’ve signed with Hall Hunter is a big step forward for Fieldwork and the team at the University of Plymouth. I’m looking forward to seeing our robots operating in the field.”
The Hall Hunter Partnership grows 14,000 tonnes of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries and its major customers include Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Tesco. The family-run business owns farms and glass-houses in Berkshire, Surrey and West Sussex and also runs a farm in Portugal.
Hall Hunter Partnership chief operating officer David Green said: “HHP has always led the soft fruit industry in pushing forward productivity and quality standards on our farms and nurseries. This partnership with Fieldwork Robotics is an exciting new development to pioneer the harvesting of raspberries robotically at a commercial scale, we are looking forward to our first human free hectare to be picked together.”